a few problems

Thu 25 Nov 2010 06:33
21:50N 20:20W

Hn and I have the shift. Beautiful moon-rise followed by a unique sky just a few minutes ago, like lots of sheep in the sky with strange colors. Also very little traffic out here, nice and easy.

Different than this morning, we tried to take the PARASAILOR down as there was no wind, less than 8 knots, making the sail unstable. (The parasailor is like a huge spinaker, but it has a 'wing' in it, to stabilise it, and also there is a big hole below the wing so that wind gusts can go through the sail rather than rip the sail...) It was anyway time for a rig-check. However, no matter how we tried, the sail was stuck. And not on an easy place to fix, but in the mast top!
We tried several things to get the spinaker halyard (the line hoisting and holding the sail up in the mast) to release but no good. E remembered he had released the line at night a few centimeters in order to reduce wear and tear on the line. He also concluded quickly that the reason the line was stuck, was that a small 'sock', some high tech material we had put around the line at the point of most friction, probably had gone loose on one side, and now blocked the line going through something.
As the sea was very calme, we hoisted E up in the mast with a set of tools, and he began his challenge of releasing the line. A few minutes later, applause was his part, as he had been able to free the jammed line. We could now bring down the sail and the line for inspection, and ofcourse take E down as well :)
The line and sail had not been damaged, and E used a needle and a 'wire' to once and for all fixate the 'sock' on its place for good, problem solved.

We now could concentrate on another problem. Since Gibraltar solar panels had been mounted on the bimini and these had been providing enough energy to keep things going during the day. Stronger, in Tenerife, although careful with energy, A and I managed to live 6 days aboard without using shore power or starting the engine.
So we were surprised and disappointed today to find that actually, after 20 hours, the battery levels were much lower than expected, and at this morning, we were almost forced to start the engine to reload the batteries. The batteries have to stay above a certain level otherwise they can go 'kaputt' and thus become useless. We started measuring the solar panels, check the wires, check the batteries and so on, but could not find any cause as to why the batteries were not topped up by the solar panels as in the last weeks. On the boat we had only 2 small booklets about the panels and the 'regulator/charger', and we ended (after 2 days battery energy) with taking the decision to start the engine, and run it in neutral. This would charge the batteries and prevent us getting time penalties due to motoring with propulsion. In the meantime, we are consuming most of our satelite phone data minutes with emails going up and down about this subject. Long story short, G on shore is working with technicians to help us figure out and possible fix the issue here, more tomorrow.

And then after diner today, the big decision was made. After hours of no (or too little wind) and knowing the weatherforecast and speaking to other boatds, we finally took the decision to start motoring, despite the penalties. We picked up on the radio that lots of other boats were motoring, so what the heck. Apparantly the tradewinds are much more south this year than 'normal' due to a guge depression on the atlantic, I am sure most European will be affected by rougher weather than normal the coming days...